In my mind, imagery is inexplicably linked to memories.  If I think about something or someone in the past, it comes alive when I have an image to associate that with. And photos make them even more real.

My mom has always taken a lot of photos of our family, and I have too… although not ever as much as the last few years.  In fact every year that I’ve designed our annual family photobook, it’s got bigger.  This year I’ve designed a whopper of a book… it’s ended up being 92 pages and it’s a 30x30cm book! Not small by any stretch of the imagination.  I ordered it today, so I’ll blog about it properly when I get it… but here’s one page as a teaser.

Now here’s the thing… this album for a change has got quite a few photos of me in it.  I’ve learnt over the last few years that being in the photos and not just taking them, is just so important. The sad thing is, there’s only ONE image of the four of us in my entire collection of thousands of images taken during last year! ONE!! And there isn’t one of me and my parents together!  Or my kids and my parents together!

That’s horrific!

But anyway, that’s actually not what I was going to talk about tonight.  It was something related, but that clearly needed to get out of my head so there you have it.

What was on my mind was the following… and yes it is related…

The best part about being a photographer is being able to watch how people interact with each other and to try and capture that in some way.  I love that Laura said a few days ago on Facebook that the photos I took at her wedding made her emotional… it means that I got her wedding right.

My frustration as a photographer is that sometimes I don’t have the time to actually get that emotional connection right… or to capture the person/people properly… but I’m hoping I get that right most of the time.  Although I do have to say that at the end of the last summer when I was getting so tired, I knew I needed a break because I was trying too hard.

Now I’m rambling, but capturing it right is so important to me.

Let me explain. Because I do all my marketing via word of mouth, and therefore social media, I do end up getting connected to my clients and/or sometimes their families and friends via some kind of social media site (either blogging or Twitter or Facebook). And because that happens, inevitably I do keep up somewhat connected to my clients’ life stories after the photoshoot ends.

I’ve been capturing other people’s stories for the last 5 years, which is not a very long time. But during that time, I can tell you the following stories about what’s happened since I’ve taken a family’s portraits… and it makes me realise just how important photography really is:

  • One family rescheduled their shoot one day because they ended up being too busy… the father died the next week and I ended up taking photos of the funeral instead (I only ever did that once because she was a work colleague and I won’t ever do that again).  On a happy note, I did take photos of the wife’s re-marriage the next year and I know the new family unit are very happy.
  • A few months after a family shoot with 2 tweens where I took photos of the 2 girls jumping and running, they were both diagnosed with childhood arthritis, and the older sister is now in a wheelchair.
  • A most amazing little boy that I took photos of as part of a huge family shoot died… and the photos I took were used at his funeral.
  • A little girl got some rare cancer after I took her photos … and I’ve lost track of that story so I have no idea how she’s doing now

Anyway, those are the sad stories… and not all of them. I read a note on Facebook posted by the sister of a groom, who’s wedding I photographed earlier this year and she wrote about the struggle he’s had with his health since the wedding, and that was the trigger for this post actually… it’s not my place to name names and to link to their stories directly because they’re not really my stories to tell.

My story is the way that I feel about the photos I take.

On my other screen right now, is a photoshoot that I’m busy editing, and thinking all these things tonight is making me take more care in the way that I handle their memories.

I’m not just taking photos.

I’m not just capturing stories in images.

I’m creating memories.

I’m preserving life stories.

**updated to link to Liezel’s blog post about her brother. It is in Afrikaans… make a plan to read it and you’ll understand why I wrote this post.